Tuesday 7 July 2015

Dual Ministries

Having been serving in more than 1 ministries over the last 2 years, I've come to really see how serving results in an outpouring of God's blessings in my life. A dual ministry (or multiple ministry), as its name suggests, simply means that you're serving in more than 1 ministry concurrently. That could mean serving as a cell leader in church and also the the worship team; or as a sunday school teacher and also para-church organizations; or working in a particular company and serving in the children' ministry; or simply playing soccer outside of school to outreach as well as being an active member in church. For the purposes of this post, my working definition of ministry is just "serving in any capacity in any setting whereby you intentionally and continually seek to serve God and advance the kingdom of God, and also owning it". A sense of ownership in that ministry is very important because there are many areas we serve in as a 'hired hand' (or a helping hand as a favor) and not as as inheritors (of God) of that field. 

Most of us are involved in a dual or multiple ministry. Unfortunately, rather than seeing people receiving a multiple portion of blessings from their multiple ministries, more often I come across people who are lamenting over their several ministries; regretting having taken it up or burning out as they seek to please God. In Ephesians 6:7-8 it states: Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. Some may say that the rewards only appear in heaven, but frankly I think eternity starts the moment Christ is in our hearts, heaven is just Part 2 of God's goodness. I believe serving is intended to provide blessings here on earth as well and so this post is written for the sake of people in the above-mentioned circumstance, and I write these possible perspectives to take as someone who has also gone through, and is still going through, those tough times :)

UPDATE! Sidenote: For those of you who are not currently serving in a particular ministry yet, the principles written below are still applicable to you. This post is mainly about 'adding' more ministries into our lives, so a transition from none to one ministry is still an addition process, so it is still applicable for you! (thanks Nic ^^)

How to Enjoy Dual Ministry: Recognizing Costs
One fact that people often do not consciously realize is that regardless of the blessings of serving, there are still costs to bear. This is usually (but not limited to) amount of time, physical energy, emotional energy (handling people is one of the most consuming thing in the world), mental/creative strength, money, sacrificing personal ambition/dreams and lastly spiritual opposition. It is very important to consider costs ONLY (regardless of the blessings /benefits to be gained), since here we are not dealing with profits, but the kingdom of God. 

Luke 14:28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?Here, Jesus didn't mention what the tower is for, or what is there to gain by completing the tower. He only talked about the costs, since it is a pre-requisite for anything to take place. Imagine going to a world-famous restaurant to eat at a 99% discount. The option to eat at merely 1% of the original price is an ludicrous bargain and surely everyone would want it. But can everyone afford it, if the original meal costs $10 million, and 1% of that is $100,000? Naturally no. 

In Philippians 3:8, Paul also mentioned something about costs. "...I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." He calls these costs 'rubbish', worthless, NOT nothing. As compared to the blessings, costs can be extremely insignificant, but failing to recognize them is often what will lead us to burn outs.

Reducing Costs
Now that we recognize the piling up all these costs (which can become quite significant in our lives!), we should find ways to reduce them to ease the costs of serving, and I refer to this as "overlapping" our commitments. I learnt and understood this method personally as I serve in my church cellgroup as well as in Varsity Christian Fellowship (VCF) in school. There are some amount of overlaps in my two ministries, which I use to my advantage. For example, I have weekly cellgroup meetings as well as VCF meetings, and the programme is generally the same: games, worship, prayer, Bible study etc. Sometimes I have to lead in both settings and need to prepare in advance. The cost of that will be time, effort and mental energy, which are rare commodities during school time. Thus, what I do is that in both settings, I will reuse what I learnt/saw others do/experienced and then apply it in the other ministry. These could be an interesting game; new methods/practice to conduct the programme; the right attitudes to adopt towards the people present and so on. Regardless, this means that I only spend "1 amount" of whatever resources I require to serve in 2 settings (with just a little additional effort to suit the context), resulting in some cost savings that I can use for anything else. This is the main principle of reducing costs: re-use, recycle :D:D:D

WHAT OVERLAPS #@$%! However, at times the amount of overlaps would be harder to find in some ministries. Still, I assure you that there is some, because regardless of our ministry we serve the same God with the same Bible under the guidance of the same Holy Spirit. And He has made clear in the Bible what pleases Him as we serve. What makes a ministry a ministry is ultimately not human effort, but a desire to please God in that field after all. These overlaps may be in terms of needed skills (in interacting with people) or attitudes to serve effectively. To illustrate my point, I have another ministry, which is about Dota, serving God and advancing His kingdom through online games (the details are a bit complicated and still exploratory). The overlap between this and my church are VCF ministry is when I have to converse and work together with people I don't know at all and perhaps don't really fancy for the sake of a common goal. Unlike projects in school, I don't know their name or face, and cooperation lasts for a mere hour before my teammates change. There are also differing proficiency levels within the team and I have to learn to adapt. Just like how we live with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the world, such differences are ever-present. Differing maturity, interests, convictions; new people to meet and work with for specific events/festivals, or new members to disciple and assist. How do you balance all these and remain Christlike, yet effective? How do we show grace to others less accomplished when they mess up? Surely these are relevant in any and all of your ministries. Another example would be in my friend's case who serve in the worship team in church and also an active member within the cellgroup. Because of her commitments, at times she can't be around. A possible overlap in such a case is to experience God's movement and grace in one ministry and then share it as a testimony in another to encourage others of God's goodness in everything.

Some people may think that what I mentioned above with regards to skills and attitudes may be something that is obvious. I would think so too, but not everyone acts and thinks like that actively. It takes a new perspective to be able to see that whatever we do is not about how much God wants to take out of us in every possible area of our lives, but simply that He wants us to develop the capabilities and attitudes of a servant and child. Rather than seeing everything as exclusive and different, I would encourage you to see them as all "service unto God". Regardless of what we do, we are merely serving and pleasing God with our service. This would also help you to allocate your resources when you have a limited amount of it. Should I go for this or that or spend more time on this or that? Decision making becomes much more simple when you realize that all these are service, none is lesser than the other in terms of which is more honoring to God. 

How to Enjoy Dual Ministry: Realizing Blessings
Sometimes when we serve we have the mindset of a slave having been forced to work for the coffers of someone else. I'm sure no one would actually say it out loud to anyone else, but we may have the mindset of the lazy servant in Matthew 25:14-30, the Parable of the Talents. In the words of the third servant, "Master, I know you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;". But nothing is further from the truth. In the same parable, the rest of the servants who did their best  and multiplied the Master's talents received the invitation to share in their master's (God's) happiness, and were given even more honor, responsibility and glory. If the thought of receiving more of God's trust in the form of more responsibility doesn't in some ways excite/delight you, then perhaps you're in a sense somewhat burnt out or require a refreshment. (or maybe just a change of attitude)

Often when we serve we rarely think of the blessings and benefits of serving. Not that we NEED benefits of serving, but God is always looking out for chances to bless us. Exodus 23:25 "You shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you". This is the command of God, said in the context prior before the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan. Serving God results in blessing, as clear as day. What I am NOT suggesting here is that we are serving God out of our ulterior motives, for the sake of blessings only. Nope, not my point. Our primary motivation of service is ultimately still God. Blessings and benefits just make us a little bit more enthusiastic about it. Imagine this: you're out doing volunteer work in another country, building homes, toilets, communities for the sake of others. You signed up for this trip because you see this as valuable work, out of compassion and desire to bless others. Naturally, you expect it to be tough and so you prepare for it. So on the first day of the trip you give your all, becoming pretty tired in the process. Then at the end of the day the caretaker of the place informs you that there is a nice warm meal and a shower provided for you. Would you accept it gratefully and joyfully, or you would you turn it down and say: "Oh, no thanks, I didn't sign up for the nice treatment. Please give me crappy food and no water to bathe." Obviously, it'll be great if there is some sort of comfort at the end, even though its not necessary. The next day, when you wake up, you'll be a little bit more refreshed and perhaps even more looking forward to the entire process, because not only are you fulfilling the desire to serve others, your own needs are also being taken care of. And that is the heart of God, as you serve Him, He desires to bless you, in whatever ways He so pleases. Realizing this would really add on to the whole experience of serving. We then become people who no longer labour ONLY because we love, but because WE ARE LOVED as well.

I can't claim to be aware of all the form of these blessings/benefits that God can give us through serving, since they are truly infinite. It can be material wealth; wisdom beyond our age; skills and talents we never knew we possess; friends for life; a heart that is soft and gentle and strong; character growth; spiritual giftings; a romantic partner. I really don't know. But I guess the fun and joy is also in the seeking and discovering of them. Often they are not immediately obvious and may take time to appear. But when they do, please don't say no to these blessings. Accept them gratefully, for they are the expression of love from a doting Master and Father.

How to Enjoy Dual Ministries: Finding New Training Grounds
The last way I want to share on how to manage multiple ministries is on this point. It's been a very recent and interesting discovery, I must say, and I think it's really by chance that I discovered it, during my random daydreaming sessions. I'm sure most of you can relate to this situation: sometimes when you're serving in a particular ministry, you feel that you are lacking in something, perhaps ability, passion, willingness, etc. (The whole list is inexhaustible, but for my own case, it's these 3.) On a side note, to explain, in my definition passion is conviction to serve while willingness is whether you actually want to do it or not (perhaps there is some trauma that causes you to not want to do it, even though you believe strongly that it is important). In my story, I'm currently serving in 3 ministries: church, VCF in school and Dota. In church, I lack willingness; in VCF, passion; and in Dota, ability (this does not mean I have 0 in these categories, just that I think it is the biggest obstacle). Now, since these are the main obstacles to serving, then the question I have to figure out is: how do I serve in the absence of these qualities? And I learn to serve without ability, passion and willingness from each respective ministry. No ability? Influence and serve where I am, while humbling myself to learn and commit to improving. No passion? Don't use my own understanding while making decisions, fully trust in God's decisions, consult people who have been through these ministries, stick around until I get it. No willingness? Remember that God wants a cheerful giver and servant, start from where I'm the most willing even if that is very difficult. No (insert noun)? The answer will eventually and surely come as you not give up on that ministry and choose to hang on to God.

Once I'm able to serve in the absence of (insert noun) in a particular ministry, I became able to appreciate and fully make use of these when they are present in another ministry I'm involved in. After I learnt to serve with the lack of ability, I understood that God ultimately cares about our heart more than our hands. Through that, in both church and Christian fellowship where I have ability, I became able to combine skillful hands together with a devoted heart, essentially becoming that servant who can make 5 talents from 5, instead of the one who made 2 from 2. I'll never be able to learn and grow this fast if I'm only serving in one ministry. Heck, I may not even realize the existence of whatever I'm endowed with if I only serve in one ministry. It is my opinion that in whatever ministry you are serving in, there is always that one thing that you feel are holding you back the most, because this aspect is compared to every other aspect in your service for that ministry. Even if I do not lack based on an absolute term, there is still that one bottleneck that prevents God from using more of me for His purpose. So multiple ministries ultimately really help us as we desire to love God through our service unto Him! Remember to use them as training grounds to grow!

Are Dual Ministries for me?
So what does this mean for us? Should ALL Christians (including yourself) hurriedly join and serve in more than 1 ministry? Naturally, the answer is 'depends'. My opinion, is, however, "unless there is a good reason not to". More details to come!

Depending on season
What season are you at currently? What does God want of you out of this particular season? This is a very important question to ask before deciding to embark on a new ministry. Is it a season of resting, of serving, of growth, or of what? I would highly recommend you to consider joining a particular ministry or not after answering these questions sincerely. If you earnestly cannot figure it out through prayers and reflection, ask your leaders or your trusted spiritual buddies. Do not rush into joining anything, though you're definitely free to explore and try out. This is because different ministries would require differing amount of giving and would also result in differing amounts of receiving. Initially, when I first came to university, I was in a season of recovery from past hurts and finding my footing in school. I had very little to give and needed to receive a lot in many aspects. So my initial thought was to reject joining any new ministry, as I was barely managing to hang on to my current one. But God in His wisdom told me to join VCF in school, because He knew that I would receive a lot through it, and can simply give as much as I am willing and able to at the moment. However, I knew that apart from VCF it would be quite unwise to join any other CCA (like Dance or any sports-related club) and pursue any other interest, which would require me to give a lot, be it time, physical and emotional energy, which I lack. 

Which one should I join, if I am in a season whereby I am able to give?
In such seasons, honestly there a lot more opportunities and options, and there's no easy way to decide. However, I think a possible consideration is whether you want to grow in terms of breadth or depth. Regardless of what we serve or receive in, at the end of the day there is one thing that happens: growth. Servants and children of Christ both end up becoming more Christlike as we involve ourselves in God's affairs. The question is that during this season (or the foreseeable upcoming seasons), do you want/require your growth to be in terms of expansion (breadth) or strengthening (depth). An example of expansion could be learning to see God move in ways/places/fields you never expected Him to. For me it's like seeing God move in Dota, or joining the children's ministry. An example of strengthening could be a greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of the next generation that causes you to be able to give and sacrifice more to serve God in the youth ministry that you're currently involved in.

One thing I must caution though, is that once you've started the journey of dual ministries, it would be hard for you to stop completely. This is not because you can never let go of your responsibilities or what, but merely because your view of the kingdom of God has been widened, and you cannot forget what you see. The things you never thought matter or is outside of your scope are now very real and relevant to you, and it'll be extremely difficult to ignore them. I feel that eventually everyone would end up being involved in dual or multiple ministries, minimally in your workplace and family on top of your church. The important question thus becomes when do you start getting into multiple ministries, rather than whether you should or not.

Depending on Connections and Opportunities
This point is just my own observation from my personal experience. Most of the times the things we additional do arise out of the people we meet and the opportunities we get. In my school, there are several Christian groups. However, the one I end choosing and staying in was actually the one I knew about first. I wasn't aware about the existence of any Christian groups in school till my OGL actually invited me for VCF's welcome tea. So in a sense, I don't have a particular reason why I chose it out of the others except for opportunity and the people I met. And I don't really think I lose out in any way because of that. Put in an analogy: suppose you're finding a place for dinner. Sometimes when you're just hungry or want a quick meal, you'd simply find the most convenient or cheapest place right? On the other hand, there are times where there is a special occasion and you want to pick the appropriate venue to hold that occasion. Similar to choosing or joining ministries. Sometimes you have a very specific condition and sometimes it doesn't really matter, so long as you can serve God in a greater measure. This ultimately will work because our trust  is not in finding the "best" ministry to join, but rather is in the God who "in all things works for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28. We can be assured that regardless of what ministry, we will definitely gain and grow.

After having traversed several ministries, I eventually came to the conclusion as far as God is concerned, our entire life is a service/ministry on to Him, everything we do is with that intentional and continual effort to bless His name. This is, in essence, lifestyle serving. However, on this side of eternity, it is at times hard to give our best in everything, hence ministry arises in essence as a form of prioritizing our commitments. Yet, I truly believe that at the end of the day, ministries are used by God to test what is in our heart. What do we feel for, what do we think matters to God; our attitudes and maturity. Just as God tests our entire being as a follower of Christ, He also tests the servant aspect of our faith. So rejoice not in the number of ministries you have, but the extent of depth of your heart's service unto God and His sanctifying work in making you more Christlike!
Psalm 139: 23-24 "Search me, God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


  1. Dear Sean I think this post is particularly poignant for people serving in cf cause we often find ourselves in the position to choose between church and cf! But often we don't see that ministries feed into one another and can actually build on each other. Not separate! But it's important to know the community in church might be different from the ones we are serving cf and we have to match the differences and do profiling before giving them what we've received and learnt from cf! Nonetheless ministry is to be an outflow of Gods anointing oil poured over us :) and to be first blessed and then to bless others! Jiayou Sean writing for his kingdom

  2. Hey sean, thanks for sharing with us this post! What you said really resonated in me, especially the portion on recognising and reducing costs. Just like to share a little too :). Many Christians like myself are often extremely passionate and enthusiastic abt serving so much so that we believe that the more ministries we serve in the more we are serving and building God's kingdom. But sadly that is often the reason why we get burnt out so many times while serving, often unknowingly. I realized that God has called each and every one of us to different ministries and there is a good reason for it too. Just like what Romans 12:4-8 says, we all make up different parts of the body of Christ and similarly we all have different gifts and talents that are unique to us. Pray that God will grant us wisdom in selecting the ministries to serve in and give us renewed strength so we can continuing serving his kingdom with a joyful spirit! Jiayou Sean, hope there will be more posts to come :)